Apologies for being late with this post. I got hit with illness immediately upon returning home and felt like garbage yesterday. Any thoughts I had would definitely have been incoherent goop. Today, they will be only semi-incoherent goop. Enjoy!
This episode. Man, this episode. We finally get Netero (with Banjou Ginga as his new voice actor; RIP, Ichirou Nagai) vs. the Chimera Ant King, and it unfolds in such an interesting way before the fisticuffs even begin. Netero and the King jump down from their Nen dragon and spike the ground like two meteors burning through the Earth’s atmosphere. I expected them to start beating the hell out of each other after a bit of staring down. Nope. Instead, he sits down and offers Netero peace talks. He prefaces it by saying, “Look, I can kick your ass. I know it. You know it. Let’s not shed blood meaninglessly. You’re a good guy. Work with me.” One could be forgiven for seeing it as the bad guy trying to weasel out of fighting the good guy.
But it’s not. In fact, for a moment it’s as if the roles are reversed.
I recently finished Legend of the Galactic Heroes. In this scene, the King reminds me briefly of Reinhard von Lohengramm, the youth who rises to the top of the Galactic Empire and shifts the direction of his kingdom. Like Reinhard, the King initially exists to fulfill a selfish impulse (“I’MMA RULE THE WORLD!!!!!!!” for the Ant King and “I will kill every rotten, power-abusing noble asshole in the Empire!!” for Reinhard) that eventually becomes purer (“I will use my power to protect the weak” for the Ant King and the reshaping of society for Reinhard). They both have someone who helps nurture a more humanistic compassion in them (Komugi for the Ant King and Hildegard von Mariendorf for Reinhard after … spoilers). And they both represent the benevolent dictator at the head of an autocratic society (ideally). When the King invited Netero to sit down and treat with him, I’m not gonna lie, I got REALLY excited. I love when characters speak with each other intelligently about things that MATTER, things that we have stakes in.
So when Netero decides to smack the King with his GIANT BODHISATTVA HAND instead of chatting with him, I briefly reacted like, “wow that was a real dick move, buddy.” That’s how big the shift in the King has been — I momentarily forgot what a real danger he is despite the massive shift in his thinking.
First of all, Netero’s hands are tied. He’s the leader of an organization that ultimately serves people. Many Hunters go and do their own thing, but they get hired for jobs, too. If you go back on your word, that’s it. It’s an ideal that Netero upholds even though he knows full well this is a shit situation. I mentioned Reinhard earlier; well, this is the type of situation in which Reinhard’s counterpart in the Free Planets Alliance, Yang Wenli, would find himself. He believes unshakingly in his ideal of democracy even though he’s constantly shit on by corrupt and/or idiotic politicians. Yang often tried to talk people out of dumb ideas, but when he couldn’t do that, he would follow an order, even into disaster. That’s Netero here. Even if he were convinced that the King has fully embraced his human side, Netero would still try to kill the King. It’s why he was hired. If he doesn’t try to fulfill his mission, the organization as a whole suffers.
But let’s go backward a bit. What if Netero didn’t have that weighing on his mind? What if he could just make his own decision, damn the consequences? I still think he would try to kill the King. The key is that he is not yet convinced that the King is not dangerous to humanity despite embracing more of his human side. Look at his choice of words (in the Crunchyroll translation): “I must make this fast … before my heart is swayed.” There’s still an underlying suspicion. It’s not that the King is knowingly trying to trick Netero; rather, there’s the fear that the Ant side that is dormant may suddenly, violently become dominant.
The King is displaying good human traits right now: empathy, a sense of responsibility, rationality, etc. The King is not a violent brute who takes what is desired by force. The King says that force will be used only as necessary to restore order, and then peace will be the word of the day. It sounds about as good as you could get. But there’s a flip side to that humanity, that emotion. What would happen if, say, Komugi were to die before the King truly comes to grips with that humanity? It’s easy to forget because the King has grown so quickly, both physically and emotionally, but has that growth resulted in full emotional maturity yet? Komugi is the King’s first real friend. She is the first to burrow into the King’s heart. Will the lessons she taught the King stick around should Neferpitou fail to patch her up?
That’s what Netero struggles with. The Ant/human divide in the King is simply too big a wild card to take a chance on. If the King suddenly decides “Nah, I’m just gonna blow up humanity, deal with it” then there’s very little that can be done. This is THE chance. That’s why he shows no hesitation.
But for real I would totally would have watched a whole episode of intense debate.